Softball outlasts Northern

Article by Brett Keener, The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

DILLSBURG — Mechanicsburg took the field Monday with an energy and an effort that called to mind opening day.

In a sense, that’s exactly what it was for the Wildcats.

Mechanicsburg answered its coach’s challenge on a sunny afternoon at Northern High School, where the Wildcats were sharp in all facets of the game in a 2-1 victory over the host Polar Bears in a Mid-Penn crossover game.

The win pushed Mechanicsburg over the .500 mark for the season, but more importantly it put Gail Hiestand’s club at 1-0 after they pushed the restart button following a first half that didn’t measure up to expectations.

“We had some gut-check time over the weekend,” Hiestand said. “Our first half of the season is behind us. We decided to break our season up because we’re .500, and this team should not be .500, but we are. That’s reality. I challenged them to start anew.”

The Wildcats could have made things much easier on themselves — they left 13 runners on base, 10 of those in scoring position — but an ace outing from freshman pitcher Erica Smiley and a strong defensive effort prevented the stranded runners from being too damaging.

“Several of those rallies were two-out rallies, but we weren’t finishing,” Hiestand said. “That’s just a matter of time and of staying positive and confident and trusting your defense. Erica Smiley pitched a great game and this was a total team effort.”

Northern actually struck first. Courtney Keefer recorded an infield hit to lead off the game, and she was brought home three batters later on Rachel Seik’s two-out base knock. Seik’s liner into the right field corner would have been a triple, but Mechanicsburg successfully appealed that Seik did not touch second base.

The Wildcats got the equalizer in the second inning, when Smiley drew a one-out walk and was brought home two batters later on Liz Wilgus’ single up the middle. Mechanicsburg then grabbed a 2-1 lead in the top of the third when Taylor Clark drilled a homer over the fence in left-center.

The remainder of the game followed a pattern. Smiley remained in control against the Northern lineup, while Polar Bear hurler Shanon Ward continually found ways to extricate herself from jams. Mechanicsburg left multiple runners on base in five different innings.

“We dug ourselves a hole just about every inning,” Northern coach Bruce Sheaffer said. “Then we’d turn around and get out of it. Shanon really pitched us out of few jams.”

Smiley, meanwhile, was a bit more relaxed. She cruised through the middle innings, not allowing another hit until there were two outs in the fifth. The freshman struck out five and walked none.

“It was basically my defense,” Smiley said. “There were a lot of nice catches and a lot of nice plays behind me. That was a major help.”

Smiley would need her defense one last time. Northern’s Rachel Hennessey lined a two-out single with a runner on first in the seventh; Mechanicsburg right fielder Rachel Deveney then attempted to throw out Hennessy at first on the hard-hit ball. The throw was mishandled, and Sheaffer sent runner Sierra Van Sickler home. Deveney raced in from the outfield, picked up the ball and fired a perfect strike to catcher Morgan Minter, who tagged out Van Sickler to end the game.

Softball drops decision to Trinity in Extras

Article by Kurt Bopp, The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

MECHANICSBURG — Twice Trinity’s Jenna Barone came to the plate with runners on second and third. Twice she delivered.

In the first she doubled to drive both in, but it was her ninth-inning triple that sent the Shamrocks to the win. She ended up as the game-winning run in a thrilling 9-7 Trinity win over Mechanicsburg Saturday afternoon at Filbert Elementary School.

Barone’s triple put the Shamrocks up by a pair, but her run scored off Christina Colangelo’s single proved the difference as the Wildcats’ ninth-inning rally came up just short.

“We beat ourselves; we didn’t get the key hits and left too many runners in scoring position,” Mechanicsburg coach Gail Hiestand said.

The Wildcats (4-4) held a slim one-run lead heading into the top of the seventh, but Trinity’s Amanda Knaub hit an RBI single to drive in Erin Pfeffer for the tying score with one down. Ashley Baldwin scored on a bases-loaded walk for the one-run lead going into the bottom of the frame.

With the script reversed and them needing the tying run in the seventh, the Wildcats (4-4) got a leadoff single from Kristie Shay, who advanced on a bunt and a wild pitch. Erica Molovich drilled a deep sac fly to left to score Shay to tie it at 5, but Trinity ace Baldwin got out of the inning to force extras.

After a quick eighth inning with three-up, three-down for both sides, Trinity (5-3) got the most out of its lineup. Baldwin was hit by a pitch, then stole second. Knaub singled and stole second for runners on second and third with Barone up.

She drove a triple to the right-center gap for the two-run advantage. She finished 2-for-3 with a run scored and 4 RBIs on the day. She was later walked in, as well as Colangelo for the four-run lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.

“They’re very resilient. Good camaraderie,” Trinity coach Robert Knaub said. “I’m very pleased. That was a big one for us.”

The Wildcats didn’t go quietly as the top of the order came up. With one down, Shay reached on an error and later advanced on Molovich’s walk and a wild pitch. Each scored on back-to-back RBI-singles by Morgan Minter and Rachel Deveney. But Baldwin induced a groundout to end the rally and game at 9-7.

Baldwin went the distance on the mound and finished with 11 strikeouts and five walks with seven earned runs allowed on 10 hits.

“(Baldwin) is very strong and used to throwing a lot of innings,” Knaub said. “She’s very resilient.”

Erica Smiley, of the Wildcats, came in to pitch in relief and threw six innings for five strikeouts and four walks in the loss.

Trinity started things off with a 3-0 lead as the top of the order reached base in the first, with one scoring off Knaub’s RBI-double. Barone plated the other two with a double of her own for an early 3-0 lead. Knaub finished 3-for-5 with a pair of runs scored and 2 RBIs.

For the Wildcats, Shay went 1-for-4 with three runs scored. Amber Schuman went 2-for-3 with a pair of RBIs. Mechanicsburg got all seven of their runs with two outs.

Hiestand was happy her team could deliver with two down, but overall frustrated by the offense’s lack of timely hitting when they need it most. The Wildcats also committed three errors.

Mechanicsburg plays at Cedar Cliff Monday.

“The sign of a good team is how you bounce back after a tough loss,” Hiestand said. “That was a tough loss so we’ll see Monday.”

The Shamrocks host Susquenita Tuesday, and Knaub said the Blackhawks are “the best team in the area.”

The win only boosts his squad’s confidence going into Tuesday’s showdown.

“It was a rough week with a loss in extras,” Knaub said. “So it was really nice to get this one.”

Softball drops season opener to Shippensburg

Article by Brett Keener, The Sentinel/Photos by Michael Bupp, The Sentinel

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

MECHANICSBURG — No, the weather was not any better in Shippensburg this spring than it was elsewhere in Cumberland County. Shippensburg’s early-season softball opponents might be forgiven for thinking otherwise though.

The Greyhounds have the look of a team that has gotten in plenty of time on the practice field, the latest evidence being Tuesday’s sharp and efficient 8-1 victory over Mechanicsburg in a Mid-Penn crossover game at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School.

Combine that effort with Ship’s season-opening win over Northern, and Mike Peters’ Greyhounds have allowed one run, issued one walk, and committed zero errors over their first two games.

“It’s just nice to be outside since we’ve been in the gym for so long,” Peters said. “This is somewhat of an experienced group. These girls have been together a long time and they appreciate what you need to do to win games: scoring first, playing solid defense, limiting walks. They did a good job of that today.”

The Greyhounds hit every mark on that checklist. They were aggressive at the plate in the opening inning, with leadoff hitter Alexis Wolfe lashing a first-pitch single to open the game. Morgan Newell followed that with a second-pitch single of her own, putting runners at first and third after just three pitches. Both Wolfe and Newell came home in the inning, the former on a throwing error and the latter on Courtney Coy’s RBI groundout.

Ship kept up the pressure in the second inning, with Kayla Carbaugh and Kylie Starliper opening the frame with singles. That helped bring the top of the order back around again, and Wolfe and Newell delivered again. Wolfe’s RBI fielder’s choice brought in Carbaugh, while Newell’s single pushed the Shippensburg lead to 4-0. The Greyhounds tacked on one more run to make it 5-0 after two.

“We haven’t had a lot of time on the dirt and playing together as a team,” Mechanicsburg coach Gail Hiestand said. “We certainly looked like we played timidly in the first couple innings. We were not playing aggressively and with confidence. I don’t know if it was nerves or what. We made unusual plays that we don’t usually make.”

The Ship bats calmed down for the next few innings, but Newell already had more than enough run support. She retired the first 13 Mechanicsburg batters in order. The Wildcats’ Amber Schuman broke up the perfect game with a one-out double in the fifth, and she was brought in by Rachel Deveney’s triple to pull Mechanicsburg closer at 5-1.

The fifth inning was the only hiccup for Newell, who otherwise allowed just a seventh-inning single to Erica Molovich. The senior struck out eight and walked none, and the error-free Ship defense handled everything else.

“We just have a good defense,” Newell said. “I know they’re there to back me up. There’s a lot of confidence when I know I have them there.”

The Greyhounds tacked on three more runs in the seventh inning. Two of them came home on Starliper’s single, capping a big day for Ship’s No. 8 hitter. The senior finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBI. Newell had the Greyhounds’ other multi-hit day, finishing 2-for-4.

Softball defeats Lower Dauphin, Hiestand earns win number 100

Article by The Sentinel/Photos by The Camera Box

For the full article, click here.

Gail Hiestand

Gail Hiestand

Mechanicsburg coach Gail Hiestand had no idea her players knew she was one win away from reaching 100.

Ask any of the Wildcats players, though, and they’ll tell you they had it all planned out.

After losing Tuesday in extra innings to Middletown, Mechanicsburg bounced right back, beating Lower Dauphin, 10-5, at Lower Dauphin High School. And while the win was No. 100 for Hiestand, she was more quick to point out the achievement of her players on that day.

It was the first time the Falcons suffered a division loss in seven years, a time frame that spanned more than 90 games.

“Coming in, I could just see it in their eyes that they knew they could beat this team,” Hiestand said. “When we bring our best pitching, hitting and defense, we can beat anyone. That’s what we did.”

The Wildcats (11-5, 7-4 Keystone) came back from a 3-1 deficit with four runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Amber Schuman had two hits, including a double, and five RBIs, while Morgan Minter added two hits, two runs and two RBIs.

In the fifth inning with Mechanicsburg holding a 9-4 lead, Lower Dauphin (10-3, 9-1) loaded the bases with just one out. Shannon Bonner came on in relief and got the next two hitters to ground out, limiting the damage to just one run.

From there, Bonner allowed just one hit over the final two innings, preserving the milestone victory for Hiestand.

“I was just so happy for the girls,” she said. “Beating Lower Dauphin and getting 100 wins in the same night, I couldn’t write a better scenario.”

Baseball falls to Lower Dauphin

Article by Chris Hopkins, The Sentinel/Photo by The Camera Box

For the full article, click here.

Lower Dauphin coach Ken Kulina had a feeling that Wednesday’s matchup with Mechanicsburg was going to be pretty high scoring. After both team’s combined for five runs on seven hits in the first inning, it was looking like he might be right.

However, with just two weeks left in the regular season and first place in the Mid-Penn Keystone up for grabs, Kulina was in no mood to watch both sides trade runs. Instead, he went to relief pitcher Blair Lewis to start the second inning.

After that move, Kulina didn’t have to worry about the Wildcats scoring anymore.

Over the final six innings, Lewis kept Mechanicsburg scoreless, surrendering just two hits and helping the Falcons run away with a 9-3 win at Rickenbach-Shirley Field at Memorial Park.

Kulina knew that making such a quick move to the bullpen could be a risky one, but afterward he was more than pleased with the way it turned out.

“I just thought they had a really good read on our starter,” Kulina said. “At this point in the season, we can’t wait too long. Especially when we started to get some runs out there, I’m thinking that we can’t keep playing catch up.

“I didn’t know that it was going to be that inning. It was just a gut feeling that I had.”

Lewis, who started the day as the DH, said he didn’t anticipate that he was going to be pitching when the day first started, but after Mechaincsburg (14-4, 8-3) erased a two-run lead in the first with three of its own, Kulina told he to get ready.

The righty gave up a hit in the third, but settled in from there. After a leadoff error in the fourth, Lewis retired the next nine batters he faced.

In the seventh inning, the Wildcats loaded the bases with two outs, but Bobby Mentzer — who came to the plate batting 2-for-3 on the day — grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the threat and the game.

“I was just throwing strikes and they were putting it into play right at my fielders,” Lewis said. “I can’t ask for anything better than that.”

Lower Dauphin (12-4, 9-1) jumped out to an early 2-0 lead after tacking on three hits in the first inning. Deon Stafford drove in Jake Shellenberger from second on a long double to left center field before Marshal Kiessling sent him home on a single.

In the bottom half, Mechanicsburg took the lead right back on four straight two-out hits. Mentzer drove in Dustin Daihl on a single up the middle and two batters later, Zach Ross sent a two-run triple into the gap in left center to put the Wildcats up 3-2.

That would be all they would get, though. Mechanicsburg hit just 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position from the second inning on, stranding six runners on base. Its lead was also short-lived, after the Falcons struck for four more runs in the second.

“It took the wind out of our sails a little bit when we came back to take the lead then they came back and got a bunch on us,” Wildcats coach Clay McAllister said. “That’s twice we’ve played them this year and that’s twice they’ve gotten after us pretty early.”

Lower Dauphin finished the day 6-for-14 with runners in scoring position. Kiessling went 3-for-4 with a double and four RBIs for the Falcons, while Shellenberger added three hits and scored twice.

The win puts the Falcons in sole possession of first place in the Keystone Division. They now control their own destiny at regaining the division title after missing out last season.

However, with the way the Keystone has played out so far, Kulina knows the Falcons still have a long way to go before they can worry about a division championship.

“In this division, there really is no such thing as the driver’s seat,” he said. “Coming into the season, anybody could beat anybody. We’re taking it one game at a time.

“This was a great game, but we have three this week. Now, we have to keep this momentum going.”


Lower Dauphin 240 300 0 — 9 11 2

Mechanicsburg 300 000 x — 3 6 2

LOWER DAUPHIN (ab-r-h-rbi) — Jake Shellenberger, rf, 4-2-3-1, Aaron Kline, ph, 1-0-0-0, Blair Lewis, dh-p, 3-1-1-1, Drew Patterson, ph, 1-0-0-0, Kaylor Kulina, ss, 3-2-1-1, Deon Stafford, c, 3-2-2-2, Marshal Kiessling, 3b, 3-0-3-4, Chad Stine, 1b, 3-0-0-0, Kyle Fails, lf, 4-0-1-0, Jeff Light, cf, 4-1-0-0, Jason Shellenberger, 2b, 3-1-0-0, Corey Atkins, ph, 1-0-0-0. Totals: 33-9-11-9.

MECHANICSBURG — Joe Hennessy, cf, 4-0-0-0, Andrew Spanos, p-lf, 3-0-0-0, Dustin Daihl, 1b, 4-1-2-0, Bobby Mentzer, c, 4-1-0-0, Parker Beatty, rf, 3-1-1-0, Zach Ross, 2b, 3-0-1-2, Marc Hershey, ss, 3-0-0-0, Ben Dubas, dh-p, 2-0-0-0, Brian Kessler, ph, 0-0-0-0, Colin Farnham, 3b, 3-0-0-0. Totals: 29-3-4-2.

3B — Mechanicsburg, Zach Ross. 2B — Lower Dauphin, Kaylor Kulina, Deon Stafford, Marshal Kiessling.

Lower Dauphin pitching: Luke Lingle 1 inn., 4 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned, 0 BB, 0 SO; Blair Lewis (W) 6 inn., 2 hits, 0 runs, 1 BB, 5 SO. Mechanicsburg pitching: Andrew Spanos (L) 1.2 inn., 5 hits, 6 runs, 5 earned, 2 BB, 1 SO; Ben Dubas 2.1 inn., 5 hits, 3 runs, 3 earned, 0 SO, 0 BB; Thomas Heenan 3 inn., 1 hit, 0 runs, 2 B, 1 SO.

Softball tops Northern

Article by Christopher Hopkins, The Sentinel/Photos by Jason Malmont, The Sentinel

For the full article and photos of the game, click here.

It was a situation Mechanicsburg was familiar with.

After regaining the lead in the sixth inning, the Wildcats let the winning run come to the plate with two outs, mirroring Thursday’s contest against Palmyra. However, just as the Cougars did before them, the Polar Bears left the tying run on base and Mechanicsburg pulled off another late win, 7-5, Monday evening at Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School.

While the late-inning drama is nothing easy to watch for any coach, if the outcome continues to remain the same, that’s all that matters for Wildcat coach Gail Hiestand.

“I’m so proud of the constant composure,” Hiestand said. “This is a young team, but they don’t play young. They play with a lot of confidence and let plays go if something goes wrong and just move on to the next play.”

Mechanicsburg (9-3) broke a 5-5 tie in the sixth thanks to some timely hitting and a little help from Northern (7-5) defensively. With one out, Jordan Hertz followed an Alyssa Dietz single with one of her own. The throw to first was wild, sending both runners into scoring position.

One batter later, Erica Molovich knocked Dietz in on a fielder’s choice. On the throw back to the pitcher, the ball got away, allowing Taylor Clark to score from third, giving the Wildcats an insurance run.

It was one that Hiestand saw as extremely important.

“They kind of threw the ball away and Taylor was smart on the bases,” Hiestand said. “I’d much rather go into the seventh inning with a two-run lead instead of one. Things like that, this team capitalizes on anything the other team will give us.”

In the seventh, the Polar Bears got the tying runs on base thanks to a leadoff walk by Lexi Waddell, and a throwing error allowed Rachel Seik to get on. But reliever Maddie Garrick worked out of the jam, getting the next two hitters out and preserving the win.

Garrick came on in the third after starting pitcher Shannon Bonner ran into some trouble. Northern had already scored five runs on five hits — two being triples from Carissa Martin and Sam Miller — in the frame to take its first lead and was threatening for more.

Instead, Garrick came on with two outs and induced a fielder’s choice to put an end to the inning. From there, the sophomore hurler never lost rhythm, never allowing another hit and striking out four.

“I just needed her to throw strikes,” Hiestand said. “She was able to get ahead in the count early and was able to work. She got them to chase a few of her pitches which helped us. I couldn’t ask for more.”

Aside from the big third inning, Northern managed just one hit, a leadoff double in the second by Courtney Keefer. There were five times that the Polar Bears had runners reach scoring position, but couldn’t do anything with it, combining to go 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

“They just didn’t have it,” Northern coach Jess Rhoads said. “They showed up like they were just going to walk all over somebody, and then just didn’t do it. They did it one inning and then just thought that was it.”

Dietz and Hertz finished the day with three hits apiece, while No. 9 hitter Brooke Libhart added three of her own with a run scored. Morgan Minter had a two-run double for Mechanicsburg in the third.

Now, after getting shut out a week ago to Susquehanna Township for the first time all season, the Wildcats look to be back on track after two nail-biting wins. For Hiestand, it doesn’t matter how they come, just as long as the end result continues to look the same.

“There were some plays which they didn’t execute well and we were able to score,” she said. “This team capitalizes on anything the other team will give us.”

Softball drops game to Red Land

Article by Christopher Hopkins, The Sentinel/Photos by Jason Malmont, The Sentinel

For the full article & photos of the game, click here.

LEWISBERRY — No one said it ever had to be pretty, Red Land coach Jason Munns will be the first to admit that. On Monday, the Patriots may have not played it exactly as scripted, but the end result was all Munns was looking for.

Red Land jumped out to an early six-run lead after the first two innings against Mechanicsburg. With the way both sides were playing, that lead was hardly enough to be a lock. In a game that both teams combined for 31 hits and nine errors, the Patriots managed to hold on for a 16-14 win, handing Mechanicsburg its first loss of the season in the process.

Despite giving the lead away in the fifth inning, Red Land (4-2) kept its composure, getting enough out of its offense to gut out a win.

“We talk about the mental game constantly,” Munns said. “We talk about all the distractions, when you’re behind and when you’re ahead. Fortunately it seems to be paying off for us and our girls haven’t lost focus yet.”

Even with 16 runs on the board, the Patriots still had to hold off a late rally from the Wildcats (4-1), who got the go-ahead run to the plate in the seventh.

With one out, Mechanicsburg cleanup hitter Erica Molovich drove a long double into right field — her third of the game. After a groundout got her to third, Amber Schuman, Maddie Garrick and Morgan Minter delivered consecutive singles, turning a four run deficit in just two.

Maggie Hahn, who had come in to relieve starting pitcher Alyssa Munns in the fifth, put an end to any comeback hopes for the Wildcats. Hahn got ahead of No. 9 hitter Brooke Libhart 1-2 before inducing a tough groundout to second base to end the game.

“A lot of teams when their down 7-1 and commit a lot of errors, a lot of teams would fold,” Mechanicsburg coach Gail Hiestand said. “We didn’t fold. What was uncharacteristic of us was we gave up 10 runs on errors or passed balls.”

Errors plagued the Wildcats all game, as they committed a total of seven on the afternoon. With the bases loaded in the first inning, Red Land cleared the bases on three passed balls to the backstop.

Then in the third, the Patriots benefitted from three Mechanicsburg errors, tacking on another three runs to take the lead back after giving it up in the top half of the inning.

Red Land scored in every inning, tallying at least three runs in four of its six trips to the plate. Its biggest blow came in the second, when right fielder Reaghan Gettys drove one way over the center field fence for a two-run home run. After surrendering five runs in the first, Mechanicsburg looked like it might get out of the second unscathed. But Gettys blast — her second in as many games — changed all that.

“This game shows that our offense is still working,” Jason Munns said. “We hit the ball well today.”

After the Patriots we able to regain the lead in the fifth, despite coming close a few times, they never relinquished it. Neither side played its A game, but it was Red Land that was able to make the plays in the end to pull out a win. And while the defense wasn’t spectacular, the Patriots made the plays when it counted in the seventh to hold on for the win.

And that’s all Jason Munns can ask for.

“This year, we’ve been in three slug fests,” he said. “We’ve been in a couple close games. I’m very happy with the amount of focus they’ve been able to maintain game by game and collectively through the season thus far.”


Mechanicsburg 105 051 2 — 14 20 7

Red Land 523 033 x — 16 11 2

MECHANICSBURG (ab-r-h-rbi) — Alyssa Dietz, 3b, 5-1-4-2, Kirstie Shay, 2b, 4-1-1-1, Taylor Clark, ss, 5-2-3-1, Erica Molovich, 3b, 5-2-4-3, Jordan Hertz, lf, 5-1-1-2, Amber Schuman, c, 5-0-2-1, Kelsi Sullivan, cr, 0-2-0-0, Shannon Bonner, p, 1-1-0-0, Maddie Garrick, p, 3-1-2-0, Morgan Minter, 1b, 5-1-2-1, Brooke Libhart, rf, 4-2-1-1. Totals: 42-14-20-12.

RED LAND — Madi Christiansen, ss, 3-4-0-0, Maggie Hahn, cf, 3-0-1-0, Kiana Lanker, cr, 0-1-0-0, Alissa Robinson, 3b, 5-3-2-1, Sydney Boreman, 1b, 5-1-2-1, Reaghan Gettys, rf, 5-2-2-2, Miranda Zettring, 2b, 3-1-0-0, Cassidy Camplese, c, 3-0-1-0, Kylie Chubb, cr, 0-2-0-0, Alyssa Munns, p, 3-1-1-0, Brittany Carroll, lf, 3-1-1-0, Hanna Thomas, ph, 0-0-0-0. Totals: 33-16-10-4.

HR — Red Land, Reaghan Gettys. 3B — Red Land, Madi Christiansen. 2B — Mechanicsburg,Alyssa Dietz 2, Taylor Clark 2, Erica Molovich 3.

Mechanicsburg pitching: Shannon Bonner 2 inn., 8 hits, 7 runs, 7 earned, 0 SO, 2 BB; Maddie Garrick (L) 4 inn., 3 hits, 9 runs, 1 earned, 5 SO, 6 BB. Red Land pitching: Alyssa Munns 4.2 inn., 13 hits, 9 runs, 9 earned, 1 SO, 2 BB; Maggie Hahn (W) 2.1 inn., 7 hits, 5 runs, 5 earned, 0 SO, 1 BB.

21 Student-Athletes make their college choices official

21 Mechanicsburg student-athletes made their college choices official on Wednesday, February 13 during the annual Signing Day.  See below for the complete list.  Congratulations!

Last NameFirst NameSportSchool
LukerKarliSoccerPenn State Berks
MorefieldAnnieField HockeyHarvard


2012 – 2013 Athletic Physical Information

Softball: Wildcats defeat Bubblers

Article by Christopher Hopkins, The Sentinel/Photography by Michael Bupp, The Sentinel

For the full article, click here.

For photographs from the game, click here.

For much of the season, Mechanicsburg has been very streaky with its success. The Wildcats have shown two different sides of themselves and with that, enter the final stretch of the season on the bubble for the District 3 Class AAAA playoffs.

On Monday, the Wildcats made a strong push to show that their true identity is a playoff-caliber team, as they beat Boiling Springs, 9-3.

“The girls know that this week is make or break for the playoffs,” Mechanicsburg coach Gail Hiestand said. “We had a tough week two weeks ago. I was worried how we would bounce back last week and to go 3-0 last week, then continue this week is huge.”

Both team’s pitchers came out firing on Monday, with Mechanicsburg (9-6, 8-5 Keystone) sending out freshman Maddie Garrick against the Bubblers’ (11-5, 8-2 Capital) senior Julia Fitting.

Neither pitcher gave way until the fourth inning, when Boiling Springs rallied for the first run of the day.

With two outs, Annie Purvis roped a double to center field that one-hopped off the wall. After a walk and a hit by pitch, Becca Gelsner hit a ball back to the pitcher. Garrick threw home, but Purvis beat the throw, putting the Bubblers up 1-0.

The lead would be short lived however, as things got ugly for the Bubblers in the fifth in more ways than one.

Fitting got designated player Corrie Tucker to strike out to lead off the inning, but the ball got away from the catcher, allowing Tucker to reach first. The inning got away from the Bubblers after that.

Fitting was forced to leave the game four batters later after a line drive struck her just above the eye. She would be OK, but the Bubblers had to go to freshman Kim Rogers to finish the game with the bases loaded and no outs in a 1-1 ballgame — a tough spot to be without Fitting, who has thrown all but two innings for Boiling Springs to that point.

The Wildcats kept the rally going, scoring eight runs in the inning behind seven hits, as they sent 12 hitters to the plate.

“The fifth inning is always our favorite inning,” Hiestand said. “We always say ‘hit in the fifth.’ We came into a huddle and just said that this is our inning. We messed around too much. I just told them that we need to bust it open right now. They listened.”

The Bubblers came back in the bottom half of the fifth with a run of their own, thanks to a double by Taylor Malinish and an RBI single from Delaney Gitt.

Boiling Springs could never really get anything going offensively all day. Despite reaching base in every inning but the second, the Bubblers couldn’t get much production from their bats. Coach Steve Darchicourt was unsure why his lineup couldn’t come through with runners on base Monday.

“We had a good practice yesterday,” Darchicourt said. “They were ready to go and doing well in their warmups today. Normally they bring their “A” game, but today was just one of those days.”

The game entered the bottom of the seventh with the Wildcats up 9-2. The Bubblers again threatened to put a rally together after back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, but they couldn’t do much with it, as Garrick got out of the inning after surrendering just one run on a passed ball.

Hiestand was proud of her freshman hurler’s day in the circle. Garrick finished with six strikeouts and never allowed Boiling Springs to score more than once in an inning.

“When you throw a freshman out on the mound, you have to deal with some young mistakes sometimes,” Hiestand said. “What I’ve been trying to instill in her is that she doesn’t win the game and she doesn’t lose the game. She has teammates behind her. We send her out there and just try to throw strikes. She had a really strong game today.”

The Wildcats entered Monday just on the outside of qualifying for the District 3 playoffs. After going 3-0 last week, Mechanicsburg has put itself in much better shape to make a run and is looking to keep that streak alive for as long as they can. With playoffs right around the corner, it couldn’t come at a better time.

“Every week is big, but I told them that this week is the biggest right now,” Hiestand said. “This team’s goal is to go to playoffs and they’re working real hard to get there right now.”